As Cupcakes & Cocktails rapidly approaches, we are excited to announce the panel of judges for this year’s cupcake contest. With a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, we can’t wait to hear their feedback as they sample the scrumptious sweets available this Sunday!
Sera Cuni grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut, with a family of self-taught cooks who enthusiastically embraced their Italian and Czech heritages. After attending Green Mountain College in Vermont on a soccer scholarship, Sera took her passion for food and cooking back to Connecticut, where she graduated from culinary school. Over the course of her career, Sera has worked at the Fearrington House Inn and Nordstrom’s Café. In 2006, Sara Foster hired her as a chef and kitchen manager for the Foster’s Market Chapel Hill restaurant. Since then, she and her wife Susan have purchased the Chapel Hill location and continue to abide by Sara Foster’s primary food ethic—that great food doesn’t have to be fancy. These days, you can catch Sera working away as co-owner and chef at The Root Cellar Cafe & Catering.
Yelena Etten has been interested in baking for as long as she has loved sugar. She remembers helping her mother make yeast rolls at the tender age of 3. Once her family moved from Russia in 1992, she signed up for her first cake decorating class and was the youngest student in the class. She has been making cakes for the last 20+ years, perfecting her technique and flavor combinations. She was the Cupcake Champion for the Center’s Cupcakes & Cocktails in 2014 and is looking forward to helping judge all of the yummy cupcakes this year.
Bill Smith hails from the town of New Bern on the North Carolina coast. An accomplished chef and writer, his food writing has been featured in well-known publications like the New York Times, and his cooking has twice earned him a vote into the final five for James Beard’s Regional Best Chef award. Bill currently creates interesting spins on classic Southern dishes at Crook’s Corner, which was named one of “America’s Classics” by the James Beard Foundation. After 22 years at Crook’s Corner, he continues to interpret heirloom recipes, often resulting in iconic dishes. There’s talk across the nation about his Atlantic Beach Pie, but locals know that it’s the decadent Honeysuckle Sorbet – available only briefly each May – that’s worth the annual wait.
Molly Stillman has been sharing her likes, dislikes, and a piece of her mind with the internet for nearly a decade as a life and style blogger. On her blog, Still Being Molly, she writes daily about fashion and beauty, some of her favorite recipes, her DIY and home decor projects, essential oils, photography, product reviews, and life as a wife and mother, and even about money. She’s basically your best friend and a Jane-of-all-trades. Her main passion is entertaining and inspiring others through empowering women to look and feel confident in the skin God gave them. Molly currently resides in Durham with her husband John, their daughter Lilly, and their two dogs, Audrey Hepburn and Tater.
Dorothy Tong is The Cupcake Princess and a champion from the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” She was a proprietor of Cupcake & Cookie, her innovative bakery located in the heart of Los Angeles, California, until she moved to Durham in pursuit of her MBA at Duke University. With her passion for extraordinary desserts, Dorothy’s Cupcake & Cookie specialized in cupcake-filled cookies, cookie-filled cupcakes, and liquid truffles.